In an age where developers are constantly pushing the limits of graphical realism to new hieghts, Lamplight Studious have taken A Pixel Story back to the beginging and given us a brief overview of the history of video games.
A Pixel Story is a devious 2D puzzle platformer that charts the evolution of video games through the ages with graphics that get progressively better as you play through the story mode. As a pixel who escapes the confines of your game, you must use your Magical Teleportation Hat to explore 6 increasingly detailed zones on your quest to reach the core of The System to stop the evil OS and save the world.
In A Pixel Story, you start off as the pixel from the game “Pong” who escapes from the monotonous routine of the game and finds yourself in The System. Along with your “trusty” guide, Search, you must reach The System Core and stop the evil OS from taking over. As far as plots go, it’s a pretty standard story. Nothing over complicated which leaves the player to enjoy the game and play at a reasonable pace.
The graphical style, to begin with, is reminiscent of the 8bit era. Very basic and pixelated but still with its own charms. As you progress through the game your character undergoes graphical upgrades which see the pixelisation recede and make way for the more rounded and HD styles. This is done by collecting pieces of “Memory” through completing quests for the game’s NPCs. From collecting Moonlight for the cave dwelling monks to collecting oil for a sentient mushroom, the quests help progress the story line but also provide the player with an insight into the crazy world of The System. When you have enough Memory you are able to access the Generation Gates, which boost you into the next graphical generation.
The idea that you need some sort of gate to upgrade is a nice way to work it into the story. You’re not simply jumping from one section of the game to the next with a lengthy loading screen. It gives you the sense that you really are upgrading and moving forward, and gives you something to work towards without the levels suddenly ending. Though, I must say I am not a fan of needing to undergo sub-quests to collect the extra Memory needed in order to make the jump. Not that it’s a bad mechanic, it’s just something I don’t enjoy (I’m looking at you Assassin’s Creed 2). A small grace that has been given in this case is the ability to go back to any of the previous checkpoints you have activated. This can be done during a level or also from The Bedroom, which acts as your central hub linking each graphical generation together.
A Pixel Story is a unique idea, the concept of jumping through different generations of graphical output is something that I’ve never encountered. The idea that it shows the history of video gaming is evident in the little nods to the platformers of years gone by. Throughout the game, you’ll notice a fair few references. For example, the disguise that Search provides is very Mario, complete with moustache, racoon tail and cape. The jumping pads are unmistakably inspired by Sonic the hedgehog and I even saw a Hylian Shield on one of the walls.
I mentioned earlier that the story line is pretty simple, but not to be mistaken with boring. Throughout the campaign, your pixel meets with some interesting characters. All of whom have well written dialogue with some genuine laugh out loud moments. My favourite so far is a certain cave-dwelling individual with a butler. I found myself going out of my way to talk to any NPC’s I encountered just to see what thy had to say for themselves. And if there is one thing that I have learned, it’s that seagulls are evil.
The main go to item in A Pixel Story is your wondrous, magical, teleportation hat. It allows you to drop it anywhere, leaving a cache version of your character. With the press of a button, you can either return it to your head or return your head (complete with body) to the hat. This simple mechanic has born some seriously sinister puzzles. Timing is everything, and A Pixel Story demands nothing less than perfection. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to restart a section due to a miss-timed jump or slightly miss judged landing. It’s frustrating, it’s difficult, and yet, it’s still great fun. Despite the difficulty curve being undeniably unforgiving in places, it hasn’t discouraged me, which is a great testament to Lamplight Studios, it’s a difficult task creating a game that is both challenging as well as enjoyable.
Overall A Pixel Story is thoroughly enjoyable and is the type of game to appeal to hardcore and casual gamers alike. At times it can be frustrating, but by persevering you can get passed the more difficult sections. The idea that the graphics get better as the game progresses is a brilliant idea and Lamplight Studios has executed it perfectly. In addition, for gamers who prefer to use a gamepad, the Xbox 360 controller works out of the box. If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.